Len Barker

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Indians 3, Blue Jays 0: Amazing! A perfect game for Len Barker! It was cold and damp at Municipal Stadium last night, so it must have been hard to hit anyway, but regardless, Barker’s stuff was incredible.  He never even reached ball three against any Blue Jay hitter.  This Barker looks so fantastic that I’d be fine with my Braves trading away, oh,  Brett Butler, Brook Jacoby, Rick Behenna and $150,000 cash for him two years from now.

At least I assume this game happened last night, as it was on the channel that normally broadcasts Indians games around here. I watched it and, because it is my job, I dutifully report it to you. Gotta admit, though: it’s strange that the Blue Jays would sign Danny Ainge at this point. He’s 52-years-old for cryin’ out loud.

Mets 9, Rockies 5: Carlos Beltran. Carlos Beltran. Carlos Beltran. 3 for 5, 3 HR, 6 RBI.  And I assume that there are still Mets fans who think he’s one of the team’s big problems. For Colorado: Ubaldo Jimenez walked six in three and two-thirds.

Orioles 2, Mariners 1: Wow! Both starters — Jason Vargas and Zach Britton — shut out the opposition for nine innings and neither got a decision. Then, after Seattle finally broke through for a run in the top of the 12th, Baltimore strikes back with a single, two straight hit batsmen (really, Brandon League?) and a walkoff RBI single by J.J. Hardy.  Thirty-year-old perfect games are great and all, but I’m kind of pissed I didn’t watch this one.  I don’t know what it was like live, but I’ve got a pretty good sense of box scores, and this one reads like a ton of fun for pitching and randomness junkies like me.

Braves 6, Nationals 5: There were times in both of the first two games of this series when I said to myself “man, the Braves had a chance to win this, and blew it.”  In this one all I could say is “the Braves had no business winning this one but did.”  Or maybe they did in some ass backwards way inasmuch as Martin Prado and Brian McCann and a host of other talented Braves hitters could not be expected to continue to not come through as often as they have not come through in key spots so far this year (believe me; as I write that sentence on Thursday evening, it makes sense to me).  Anyway, a Prado grand slam tied things up in the seventh and a Brian McCann RBI single in the 10th won it, averting the sweep at the hands of the pesky Nats.

Royals 11, Yankees 5: A good old fashioned woodshedding. This series win for Kansas City has to make some of us who have been assuming the Royals will simply wither and die take heed.  They beat the crap out of the ball, and holding the Yankees to 11 runs in three games in their home park is pretty impressive in its own right. Oh, and Eric Hosmer: 3 for 5, 2B, HR and 3 RBI.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2: Matt Cain allowed two runs on seven hits in seven and two-thirds. And check out this throw by Nate Schierholtz to nail Gerardo Parra trying to stretch a single into a double. Mercy.  That’s six straight wins for San Francisco.

Rays 7, Indians 4: I hit this one up yesterday.  Rather strange to have a day-night double header with two different teams, but whatever. Kind of shocked not see Joe Charboneau play both ends of this one.

Cardinals 9, Cubs 1: Another great start for Jaime Garcia, who ups his record to 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA. Not too strong for Casey Coleman, who continues to be a disaster. Jon Jay fills in for Lance Berkman in right and goes 3 for 6 with a double and 3 RBI. Maybe it’s just something about right field on the Cardinals this year.  Either way, doppelganger Tony La Russa approves.

Dodgers vs. Pirates: POSTPONED: I try to tie all of these into a rain theme of some sort, and the first thing that popped into my head here was “I bless the rains down in Africa” from the Toto song “Africa.”  Which then led me to find this wonderful, irony-drenched cover of “Africa” by Low. And no, no amount of irony can atone for lyrics like “sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.”  Note to simile writers: when the thing you’re comparing something to (Olympus) is less impressive than the thing you’re comparing (Kilimanjaro), your simile has failed.

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.